Celebrated composer and film-maker Michael Nyman premieres his latest work in Felixstowe tomorrow. Entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE talks to him about the unusual way it came about.
Bafta-winning composer Michael Nyman explains why he was inspired by Felixstowe for his latest score.
His score for The Piano is probably his most famous work. His new work, On Landguard Point, premieres at the Spa Pavilion in the town as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, funded by Arts Council England.
Watch the (partial) video interview here.
This two-DVD set offers a fine introduction to the life and work of contemporary British composer-performer Michael Nyman, best known for his film scores. The first disc features filmmaker Silvia Beck’s biographical portrait Michael Nyman—Composer in Progress, which includes much quasi-autobiographical material drawn from interviews with Nyman (as well as footage of the composer traveling and going about his daily routine), along with excerpts from conversations with relatives and colleagues. Nyman’s cinematic work is documented via clips from films including Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract, Jane Campion’s The Piano, and Volker Schlöndorff’s The Ogre, but only Schlöndorff discusses Nyman’s contribution. The documentary appropriately closes with reference to Nyman’s recent forays into video art and an appearance of the Michael Nyman Band at London’s famed Proms concerts—a central event in England’s cultural life—which underscores Nyman’s acceptance into the British musical establishment. The second DVD serves up a 2009 performance in Halle, Germany (Handel’s birthplace) by Nyman’s 12-member ensemble. The 19 selections certainly exhibit the composer’s distinctive musical voice—marked by growling lower brass textures and driving ostinatos—and include his recent work “The Musicologist Scores,” which alludes to Handel’s music, just as earlier compositions reference Purcell and Mozart. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, and PCM stereo, this is recommended. (three stars) (F. Swietek)
Michael Nyman in Concert Might Make You Po-go | Popmatters
By Thomas Britt | 16 December 2010 | Popmatters
How does anyone sit still during a performance by the Michael Nyman Band? So insistent, so physical, is the English composer’s music that members of his band admit to struggling to endure a single selection, let alone an entire concert. Many of the players nod and sway wildly, maneuvering through the repetitive notes. In return for these endurance tests, they are met with perfectly still, deferential audiences. Perhaps the calmness is a sign of respect, but if any music ever deserved a pogoing crowd, it is Nyman’s.
Of course, the classical music world in which Nyman exists is a rather closed, calm world. Closed, at times, it seems, even to the esteemed composer himself. His insider/outsider status is one of the ideas raised, but not fully explored, in Sylvia Beck’s Michael Nyman—Composer in Progress. The documentary is an all-too conventional portrait of an extraordinary artist, but the film’s occasionally surprising insights and revelations do bring us briefly inside the world of the composer as he continues to grow beyond the zones for which he’s most well known.
Having achieved acclaim and commercial success with film scores for Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract and Jane Campion’s The Piano, Nyman enjoys the benefits of being known to a wide audience, but he’s not necessarily embraced by the exclusive audience that many composers seek. In other words, many casual music listeners/filmgoers can hum along to selections from The Piano, but that doesn’t translate into acceptance from the classical music elite. As evidence of this struggle for status, the film positions his inclusion in the 2009 BBC Proms season at the Royal Albert Hall as a belated and hard-won vindication. Although Beck concludes with this suggestion of a career triumph, the film is ultimately too episodic to link such a high point with a comprehensive arc of Nyman’s life and work. More interesting are observations about what inspires and defines the composer’s creations and motivates him to seek new artistic experiences.
Interviews with Nyman and his band members reflect a passion for constantly pushing the limits of composition and performance. His passion is genuine, triggered by an early fixation with Mozart that transformed into an aggressive piano style. Carsten Nicolai, an artist and musician who appears in the documentary, describes this style as “machine like… very dense and even manic.” Nyman’s band members, many of whom have played with him for two decades, take up the mantle of pursuing music that, according to trombonist Nigel Barr, is nearly “impossible” to play. Violinist Gaby Lester says, “Playing Michael’s music hurts. It hurts my arm.” She admits to faking it during loud brass parts so that her arm doesn’t wear out. The trombonists, she says, don’t have the opportunity to sit anything out, and the result is that their lips have been known to bleed from the effort.
These testimonials—set to “An Eye for Optical Theory”, a mainstay of the band’s set that baritone saxophonist Andy Findon says is difficult to even imagine playing live—could make Nyman seem like a joyless taskmaster. Though he does appear to want maximum control over performances of his compositions, he is good natured and complimentary of the band and their skills. His music also provides them with the unique opportunity to really “play out”. Barr comments that the Michael Nyman Band is the only place a brass player can play so loud and not be told to quiet down.
The picture of Nyman that emerges in these interviews is that of a man who has figured out the precise sound he wants to hear and assembled the right people for the job. On his own, however, he’s more adventurous. We see his recent forays into photography and video art, which he describes as a way to “turn passing reality into objects”. His visual work has an unmistakable beginner’s quality—a fact he acknowledges as he asks a gallery owner whether he would have received such an exhibition if his name weren’t Michael Nyman. In another scene, he sits at a table with his brother David and takes digital photographs of old family pictures. At a piano store, he requests the “worst” piano and is led to the basement, where he plays a purposefully, humorously atonal selection from The Piano. All of these scenes reveal his youthful enchantment with art, music, and the mundane objects of life that are easy to overlook. This quest for new inspiration keeps the composer “in progress”, and Beck’s film is most effective when the cameras run parallel to Nyman’s present search rather than trumpet his history.
Included in the box set with Michael Nyman—Composer in Progress is another DVD, Michael Nyman In Concert. While the documentary is a functional overview of the composer, the concert DVD is by far the better feature, as we see the Michael Nyman Band at full speed. Recorded on 22 October 2009 at Studio Halle, and directed by Oliver Becker, this concert features the German premiere of “The Musicologist Scores” as well as several other highlights from Nyman’s career. Particularly well represented are scores for Peter Greenaway films The Draughtsman’s Contract, A Zed & Two Noughts, and Drowning by Numbers. Though there are a few bobbing heads in the audience at Studio Halle, most of those in attendance are respectfully still. However, the DVD release of Michael Nyman In Concert allows viewers at home to follow the lead of the Michael Nyman Band and move to the music. Home viewing also allows pausing to avoid exhaustion—a luxury unavailable to Nyman’s dedicated players.
Belladonna single features Michael Nyman
The Italian group Belladonna has released a new song “Let There Be Light” which is based on Michael Nyman’s most famous composition “The Heart Asks Pleasure First” from The Piano. The single features Michael himself on piano, and is available for sale as an MP3 here http://www.amazon.co.uk/There-Light-feat-Michael-Nyman/dp/B004F9XBHQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294286484&sr=8-1-catcorr
Nyman makes LA Time's Christmas list - Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
The British Minimalist Michael Nyman is the subject of an illuminating documentary that is part of a two-DVD Arthaus-Musik set. The second disc contains a terrific live concert by the Michael Nyman band recorded in Halle, Germany, Handel’s hometown. Come December, the month of “The Messiah,” you may be in need of a strong Handel antidote. If so, Professor Nyman’s got the cure. His concert includes the German premiere of his raucous Handel tribute, “The Musicologist Scores.”
Michael Nyman Motion Trio CD review
Audiophile Audition | November 19, 2010
Many people are familiar with the music of Michael Nyman - and its characteristic loud, fast, chugging style - through his film scores. Most American listeners, myself included, first became aware of Nyman through the fascinating, if not somewhat bizarre, films of British art house producer Peter Greenaway, for whom Nyman was his composer of choice.
I admit, I am a big fan. Those films and – of course – his quite different sumptuous score to Jane Campion’s “The Piano” got me to listen to more of Michael Nyman and to appreciate his very unique, quirky, energetic and, occasionally beautiful style. The problem, as I see it, with this set by the Motion Trio is that it should not be one’s first exposure to Nyman’s sound world. The Motion Trio, headed by Janusz Wojtarowicz, is three acoustic accordion players from Poland. They play very well and in a tight ensemble fashion that certainly lends itself to Nyman’s music. On these pieces, they are supported by Nyman’s own piano and the brass playing of Nyman Band regular, Nigel Barr.
All the Nyman “best of” are present including the well known “In Re Don Giovanni” (a sort of Mozart tribute), the “Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds” and even one of the more poignant set pieces from “The Piano”, “The Heart Asks Pleasure First”. All of the selections are carefully selected by Nyman and are well-played. The package notes indicate that Wojtarowicz approached Nyman about using some of his music for the 7th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival in 2009. Nyman has travelled in Poland and is of Polish descent, providing more cultural and emotional connections for the performers, I suspect. It actually works and sounds well. I just think that the original scoring; with Nyman’s beefy brass playing and kinetic strings is more attention getting, more bold sounding. With Nyman’s help, the Trio found these pieces that might work best on three accordions.
I do like this album, as I do all Nyman. However, I do believe this disc appeals most to the cognoscenti who are already well acquainted with Nyman. I am not so sure that people who buy this disc as their first ever exposure to Michael Nyman, a very talented man, would become an instant fan. There is nothing to dislike here, I do not believe; just not enough to really get blown away by. So, I do give this particular disc a “conditional” recommendation and do recommend that people should go try one of his better known originals, like “The Draughtman’s Contract” or even (by all means) “The Piano”. As Janusz Wojtarowicz says in the package notes (in “quoting a detractor”), “Michael Nyman’s music is so wonderful it even sounds good on the accordion.”
Nyman music used in BBC series The Trip
The Trip is a six-part comedy series on BBC Two featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and directed by Michael Winterbottom. The series features music from the MN Records release “The Piano Sings.” For more information or to purchase go to mnrecords.com
Nyman to premiere 'Dido. Prologue' in February
It looks like Russia and Britain are building a sort of an “opera bridge”. On one end, Alexander Raskatov has just premiered his opera “A Dog’s Heart” in London, and on the other end, Michael Nyman is rehearsing “Dido. Prologue” in Russia’s Perm city.
“A Dog’s Heart” is based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel of the same name. Written in 1925, it was barred from publication until the late 1980s when it finally made its way to theater stages and TV screens. And now its characters have broken into singing. The opera begins as a buffonade and ends as a tragedy, composer Alexander Raskatov said in an interview.
“I sought to convey the horror of the Sharikovs and the like who want to destroy the entire human culture and intellect, that’s why, unlike Bulgakov’s novel, the opera has an unhappy end.”
Raskatov’s “unhappy end” echoes the new project of his British colleague Michael Nyman, the author of soundtracks for Peter Greenaway’s films. His opera “Dido. Prologue” to be premiered at a music festival in Perm in February is an invented story of how a prologue to the first British opera “Dido and Aeneas” by the 17th-century Baroque composer Henry Purcell, which was thought to have been lost, has been found and also about how Henry Purcell was rehearsing his opera about the Trojan war hero Aeneas with students of a boarding school for young ladies in Chelsea and only one professional singer invited to sing the part of Aeneas.
Starring as the Chelsea girls in Nyman’s production are girls from Perm’s Mlada choir. For Aeneas, he invited Peter Nalich, an iconic pop signer who represented Russia at this year’s Eurovision song contest.
Nyman to mentor Berlin's Score Competition
Nyman to mentor Berlin’s Score Competition
Winner will fly to Hollywood for tour of sound studios
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British composer Michael Nyman has been tapped to mentor the Score Competition for composers and sound designers during the 61st Berlin Film Festival’s Berlinale Talent Campus in February.
Nyman composed the scores for “Wonderland,” “Gattaca,” “The Piano” and several Peter Greenaway films including “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” and “Prospero’s Books.”
Competish will give three composers and/or sound designers the opportunity to create scores for film excerpts and record them with the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg. Winner will travel to Los Angeles for a Dolby-sponsored tour of sound studios.
The ninth Berlinale Talent Campus, an academy and networking platform for 350 selected participants, takes place Feb. 12-17 during the Berlinale, which runs Feb. 10-20.
Composer Michael Nyman to mentor the Score Competitio
Nearly 4000 applications from 141 countries for the Berlinale Talent Campus #9
Composer Michael Nyman to mentor the Score Competition
Composer Michael Nyman, mentor of the Score Competition 2011. © Sheila Rock
“Framespotting – Filmmakers Positioning Themselves” is the name of the game when the doors to the theatre “Hebbel am Ufer” open for young, international filmmakers on February 12, 2011, during the 61st Berlin International Film Festival. Enthusiasm for the Berlinale Talent Campus is going strong, even after 9 years of existence: 3967 up and coming filmmakers from 141 countries applied, with first-time applications from Belize, the Comoros, Brunei, Mali and Mauritania. During the six event days, the Talent Campus offers 350 selected participants an opportunity to learn from prominent Berlinale guests and notable experts, to strengthen their own skills, and to clearly define their creative and strategic filmmaking goals. On top of this, Talents can participate in numerous hands-on training programmes, like the Doc & Script Station, the Talent Project Market, the Editing Studio or the Post-Production Studio, to work with experienced mentors on new film projects and make contacts for the future in an informal networking environment.
Composer Michael Nyman to mentor the Score Competition
The multiple award-winning British composer Michael Nyman will mentor the Score Competition, the Berlinale Talent Campus’ competition for composers and sound designers. Nyman became widely known as a film score composer mainly for his work in many of Peter Greenaway’s films (A Zed & Two Noughts, The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover, Prospero’s Books), as well as for his scores for Wonderland, Gattaca and The Piano, his greatest commercial success thus far. Nyman is considered one of the most innovative and versatile contemporary composers. In addition to scoring films, he has also composed and premiered numerous operas, had musical stints in the games and fashion industries, and made a name for himself as a conductor, critic and director, most recently with his video project NYman with a Movie Camera. “I feel honoured to support the Talent Campus as a mentor, even more so as I still consider myself to be a Talent” says Michael Nyman (*1944). The Score Competition offers three young composers and/or sound designers the chance to create new scores for selected film excerpts and record them with the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg, with final mixing at the Film and Television Academy (HFF) “Konrad Wolf”. The scores will have their world premiere during the Campus. The best score will be selected by a jury, and its composer wins a Dolby-sponsored tour of the most renowned sound studios in Los Angeles.
The Berlinale Talent Campus is an initiative of the Berlin International Film Festival, a business division of the Kulturveranstaltungen des Bundes in Berlin GmbH, funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media upon a decision of the German Bundestag, in co-operation with MEDIA - Training programme of the European Union and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg.
Michael Nyman is one of Britain’s most celebrated composers. Besides writing operas and orchestral concertos, Nyman is perhaps best known for his soundtracks for films such as the multi Oscar-winning The Piano. He has collaborated with everyone from Sir Harrison Birtwistle to Damon Albarn and is enjoying a growing reputation as a serious photographer and filmmaker.
Even for a man often credited with being the first to talk of minimalism in music, more than 40 years ago, a Proms debut couldn’t help but be a high-pressure enterprise. That Michael Nyman is the best-known British minimalist composer only intensified the sense of expectation – he had, after all, had to wait a long time for his own Prom. Nevertheless,But in the late-night slot on Tuesday, Britain’s best-known minimalist composer and his band seemed anything but nervous.
Proms 53 & 54 - OAE/Norrington; Michael Nyman Band
Royal Albert Hall, London
Michael Nyman’s band, superb musicians, were beautiful in their own way, but his art is a limited one for the Proms
This year Michael Nyman finally sees his work performed at the Proms. He tells Time Out about his journey to the mainstream and back again
Michael Nyman è assurto relativamente tardi alla fama, a quasi quarant’ anni, grazie alle colonne sonore dei primi film di Peter Greenaway: I misteri di Compton House (1982), Lo zoo di Venere (1985), Il ventre dell’ architetto (1987), Giochi nell’ acqua (1988), I morti della Senna (1988), Il cuoco, il ladro, sua moglie e l’ amante (1989) e L’ ultima tempesta (1991). Ma il suo maggior successo cinematografico e discografico è stata la musica per il film da tre Oscar di Jane Champion Lezione di piano (1993), le cui note sembrarono quasi donare la parola alla muta protagonista. A parte…
Breathtaking, Epic, Nostalgic.
So the giant of music behind the arthouse silver screen has come to Australia. Fresh from the Queensland Music Festival on a stopover in Sydney, Michael Nyman brought excerpts of his life’s soundtrack and band with him.
WHEN Michael Nyman was asked to collaborate with didgeridoo player William Barton, he had his doubts.